March 16, 2011
My Review of iMovie for iOS 1.2 at Macworld
A stomach bug kept me from completing this a day earlier, but now my review of iMovie for iOS 1.2, the latest version that works on the iPad 2, iPhone 4, and fourth-generation iPod touch, is now online: Review: iMovie for iOS 1.2. I found some holes and limitations, but overall it's a great, friendly app.
October 27, 2010
My Macworld iMovie ’11 Review
Macworld has now posted my review of iMovie ’11. I gave it 4.5 mice, up from the 4 mice I gave iMovie ’09 largely due to the inclusion of audio editing features that have finally caught up (and slightly exceeded) those of the late, lamented iMovie HD 6.
Putting together a video last night drove that home: I was able to isolate some sections where the shutter click from my still camera was overwhelming. To do so, I selected the portion of the audio where a spike appeared in the waveform, and dragged the Volume bar down to zero. However, that left a noticeable gap of silence.
So, instead I selected the clip, detached the audio, then trimmed it down so that just a section of background noise was active. The video clip is automatically muted when you detach the audio, so I un-muted it, placed the background noise clip over the shutter click, and lastly reduced the volume where the spike occurs. Here's the finished product:
The green waveform at the bottom of the screenshot belongs to the background music track; I've reduced the volume to about 40 percent so it isn't competing with the audio from the video. (I tried turning on ducking for the video clips, which reduces other tracks automatically, but doing so negated the purple background noise fragment clips. It was easier to adjust the background track volume where I needed it.)
Here's the finished video:
July 02, 2010
Latest Seattle Times column tackles video streaming
My column this week looks at Air Video, StreamToMe, and Netflix as ways to watch video on an iPad, iPhone, or iPad touch without storing the massive files on the devices themselves: "Streaming options for music, video need not be space hogs".
May 29, 2009
Download the iDVD portion of my book for FREE!
Click here to download the PDF (6.2 MB).
When Apple revealed iMovie '09 at Macworld Expo this year, I was thrilled to see so many new features compared to iMovie '08. (You can read my Macworld review of iMovie '09 here.) But that also created a problem: my publisher needed the book to stay within a certain page count to avoid increasing the price of the book—remember, this is a full-color book printed on good paper. I knew I couldn't fit everything into the book.
As it turns out, Apple made my job easier. iDVD wasn't updated at all, so I made the decision to do something unusual: I removed the iDVD section from the printed book and am offering it as a free download to anyone who wants it. That freed up the pages needed to cover all of iMovie's new and changed features (and, in fact, the book's retail price is lower than the previous edition, now $24.99 compared to $29.99!).
Don't worry, the printed book still contains all the essential information you need to use iDVD. I added an iDVD Overview chapter that walks you through the steps of creating an iDVD project, and the "Archiving, Encoding, and Burning" chapter is there, too.
So what's in the free download? More than 70 pages of all the ins and outs of creating and editing an iDVD project, including:
- Customizing themes
- Customizing individual elements such as buttons, backgrounds, and text
- Creating DVD slideshows
- Using the Map, drop zones, OneStep DVD, Magic iDVD, and more.
- A full index to the addendum, to make it easy to find the information you're looking for.
If you don't own the print book, this free iDVD addendum will give you an idea of what the book is like: easy, step-by-step walkthroughs of how to do everything, with lots of color screenshots.
The PDF also includes a deal in the back to buy the book at 35% off when you order directly from Peachpit Press!
April 04, 2009
Pixar or Not? Flowchart
Inspired by this great Pixar vs. Dreamworks illustration, I've created a flowchart that sums up Pixar versus all other makers of computer-generated movies:
March 31, 2007
My Apple TV Review at Seattle Times
Instead of a regular Practical Mac column this week, I reviewed the Apple TV: Computer, television learning to get along.
Despite my few reservations, the Apple TV is compelling because Apple has done the living room right. The quality of the experience stands out the most, supported by the overall polish and attention to detail ranging from the easy navigation to the drifting photo screensaver that kicks into gear to prevent screen burn-in on plasma displays.
October 04, 2006
Are You Somebody?
Long essay by Tara Ison about dating an unnamed relatively famous actor in LA: "Are you Somebody?" Very much worth the read.
His is an awkward level of fame. A mid-level, ambiguous, tenuous degree of famousness, dependent on whether or not you’ve seen his recurring guest spot on a hit network legal drama, the late-night cable showing of the cult film he burst on the scene with thirty years ago, the recent movie by an obscure German director that played at your local art house for two weeks and won him obscure critical acclaim, the repeat of the sci-fi blockbuster from two summers ago on TNT, in which he was fourth-billed. He’s familiar as a longtime close friend whom you’d spot instantly in a crowd but whose face you’ve stopped studying or even really noticing, until there’s a shift, suddenly, and that familiar face is shown in a new role or new light and you realize your friend has aged a bit, or looks entirely different with that hair cut, or is revealing by that unfamiliar expression an aspect of character you’ve never before seen, and you’re startled by the wave of affection and closeness and comfort you feel on seeing him all over again, anew.
July 21, 2006
Drown that 'Lady in the Water'
It's been a long, long time since I've actively wanted to see a movie fail. M. Night Shyamalan's movie Lady in the Water opens this weekend, and if the trailer is anything to judge by, this one's going to sink to the bottom of the pond. I shouldn't even care, since I'm a pretty firm believer that people like different things, and to each his own. (I also believe that people shouldn't trash a movie without seeing it, but here I go breaking that rule.) But I find myself upset at Shyamalan, because he's taken his considerable movie-making gifts and squandered them.
Like most everyone, I enjoyed The Sixth Sense immensely. Beautifully shot, it was spooky and smart and I totally fell for the surprise ending. It was a massive success -- and that's where the problem began. Like nearly all mega-successes, Shyamalan was given free reign to do whatever he wanted on other movies. "He knows a secret," said the studios, "and he'll continue to make a lot of money for us." But for some reason, Shyamalan must have figured that his secret was the surprise twist ending. And, like other successful directors, no one has said no when they needed to. (Well, that might not be entirely true, since Disney ultimately ditched Lady in a backstory that's being aggressively marketed -- including a book by the director, which I'm sure is supposed to be a big "screw you" to Disney but ultimately, I think, will make the Disney folks look prescient. I don't have the time or energy to dig into that.)
I didn't see Unbreakable, but I did suffer through Signs, which affirmed that he thinks that the twist ending must be his strength. In reality, it's become a glaring weakness, especially since the "secret" can be sussed out long before the movie is over. Hence, I had no desire to see The Village.
With Lady in the Water, however, Shyamalan's greater weakness has come forward, which Ryan Stewart at Cinematical encapsulates perfectly:
Lady in the Water can best be described as the most recent entry in M. Night 2.0, a filmography that began abruptly in the last fifteen minutes of 2002's Signs. That was the moment when an otherwise economic, nail-biting thriller -- like the ones that preceded it -- suddenly unspooled into a morass of evangelical blubbering about the need of man to accept that everything happens for a reason and keep his spiritual tuning fork in sync with the realm of signs and wonders around him. Up until that moment, even his critics would have described M. Night Shyamalan as a director who understood the principle of "show, don't tell," and one who crafted his films with a fine razor blade, leaving all unnecessary shavings on the cutting room floor. But no more. Lady is all the proof we need that Night's hard U-turn from Boy Hitchcock into the Jehovah's Witness of movie directors has made for an unsatisfying transformation. That said, if you like the new Night, you'll be happy to know that Paul Giamatti's Cleveland Heep is a classic M. Night 2.0 hero -- a former doctor who suffered a tragedy and lost his faith in the possibility of miracles and now squanders his talents by doing the grunt work of unclogging drains and handing out keys to newly arrived tenants.
It's too bad, because Shyamalan is definitely a gifted director. His camera work can be amazing. So I'm hoping that Lady in the Water fails, kicks him out of this thematic rut, and gets him back into better form. The best thing to happen to Shyamalan's career is for him to direct someone else's script. But that won't happen until he's knocked off his self-made pedestal.
April 13, 2006
Snakes on a Plane
January 31, 2006
Oscars: No CG Nom
The Academy Awards Nominee List was announced today, and I see a notable omission: not a single computer-generated movie in the Animated Feature category. Instead, the nominees are Howl's Moving Castle, mostly hand-drawn; Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, stop-motion; and Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, also stop-motion.
I hope (but won't hold my breath) that this tells Hollywood that animation does not always equal CG. Pixar's amazing string of successes has more to do with story than visuals (though the visuals are fantastic).